Marilyn Monroe’s Filing Cabinets

(Photo of Marilyn Monroe performing for the troops in Korea – on my fridge)

To those of you out there steeped in Marilyn Monroe lore, you will know about her two filing cabinets . If you say to a Marilyn Monroe fanatic, “I wonder about those two filing cabinets …” they will nod, knowingly, and say, “Yeah, I’ve always wondered about them, too.” No need to explain further.

The cabinets disappeared after her death (like so many other things – her journal, some letters, other personal items). I always blamed Peter Lawford who had been sent on a cleaning-up mission to her house. But others thought DiMaggio had removed it – wanting to protect her posthumously … Theories abound.

But the filing cabinets have now re-emerged – full of …. STUFF.

Frank Sinatra had advised her to put all of her stuff under lock and key, get some sort of system going – a filing system … and so she did. When I first heard that the “two filing cabinets” had been found, my heart seriously skipped a beat. I have been wondering about those cabinets since … what … college?? In a similar vein, if I suddenly heard that “The journals from Sylvia Plath’s last two years have been found” – I would seriously have to hold myself back from stabbing the person next to me out of sheer excitement. Because yeah. That’s what I do when I get excited. I stab strangers.

But there are things that have been “lost” … and I have always wondered about those filing cabinets, wondering what the hell that sleazebag Peter Lawford did with them and if they would ever turn up.

Vanity Fair has the story of those two filing cabinets from Marilyn Monroe – and more than that has an enormous archive of slideshows of the things found in those filing cabinets: letters she wrote, handbags, receipts, photos, fan mail, prescriptions … the list goes on forever. I haven’t even begun to look through all of the slideshows (there must be hundreds of slides) … but I am just lost in all of it. I’ve pulled out a couple of images that really struck me – but the investigation continues.

The filing cabinets have been found. Unbelievable.

Some images below:

(Letter from Monroe to Lee Strasberg, Elia “Gadge” Kazan and Cheryl Crawford – heads of the Actors Studio)

(Green dice)

(A clear handbag that seriously has made me want to cry with envy. I want it.)

(This was Marilyn Monroe’s favorite photo of herself. She’s in a jeep during her trip to Korea to perform for the troops. She always kept the photo in her purse. When she changed purses, she would move the photo to the new purse. On the back she had written: “I like this one the best”. That’s the best image I could find of that photo … I actually have it in a calendar at home, made up entirely of images of Marilyn Monroe’s visit to Korea … but couldn’t find a bigger one online. However: you can see Marilyn’s writing across the back:)



(Marilyn’s hand-written recipes)

(This one just amazed me. It’s Joe Dimaggio’s shaving kit. I guess I love objects. When I went to the Hamilton exhibit at the NY Historical Society I was most taken with his desk.)

(Marilyn Monroe’s personal stationery)

Take a look at the phenomenal new archive of stuff here – and the latest issue of Vanity Fair hits the stands tomorrow in New York and across the nation later this week.

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38 Responses to Marilyn Monroe’s Filing Cabinets

  1. Kristin says:

    Did you notice the Snow White album? It was a few slides after the green dice. It’s a recording of “Someday My Prince Will Come.” How poignant. There is also a shot of a pile of receipts. One in the middle is from a maternity store. Some of the stuff is so random, but really speaks volumes about her.

    She is so iconic, that she’s almost not real anymore. The thought of Marilyn Monroe owning cookbooks…having actual hand written recipes, buying groceries, etc is very strange.

  2. red says:

    I loved the Snow White album too! So sweet!

    I also like the letter she wrote to her stepson (I believe) with Arthur Miller – and she writes it from the perspective of their dog. “I’ve been chewing lots of things up …” etc. Very funny and cute.

    A treasure trove!

  3. Dorothy says:

    I’ve been reading the letters. I love that she wrote as the Millers’ dog to the kids! Her extraordinary sweetness spills over onto the letters.

    Her response to Tony Curtis is hilarious, too!

  4. brendan says:

    i never heard of these cabinets and am immediately obsessed.

  5. red says:

    bren – welcome to my world.

  6. Emily says:

    “It arrived, I drank it, and I was gayer.”

  7. red says:

    I love that, too. Short, to the point, charming.

  8. tracey says:

    That bag is gorgeous. Drooool. And her stationery …. I love paper, you know. ;-) Going to have to pick up Vanity Fair this week!

  9. Lisa says:

    I misread the word “desk.”

  10. Lisa says:

    And apparently brought the thread to a screeching halt.

  11. red says:

    Where does it say “desk”? In one of the slides, or … help me. me confused.

  12. London says:

    Documents are authentic however the purses, perfume, fur coats, jewelry (all of it) are NOT real or were ever worn or owned by Marilyn Monroe. They will never be able to prove these items were hers nor will they ever be able to produce a picture of her wearing any of these items. ONLY documents are authetic Marilyn Monroe owned.
    Not my opinion, FACT ONLY and time will reveal all.

  13. London says:

    Documents are authentic however the purses, perfume, fur coats, jewelry (all of it) are NOT real or were ever worn or owned by Marilyn Monroe. They will never be able to prove these items were hers nor will they ever be able to produce a picture of her wearing any of these items. ONLY documents are authetic Marilyn Monroe owned.
    Not my opinion, FACT ONLY and time will reveal all.

  14. Lisa says:

    “When I went to the Hamilton exhibit at the NY Historical Society I was most taken with his desk.”

    My monitor here at work is kinda small and the word “desk” is in italics and there for a minute I thought it said “dick” and then I thought your Hamilton-mania had crossed over into crazyland.


  15. red says:

    Ohhh – hahahaha of course! I was like: where the heck did I say “desk”???

    Yes, the NY Historical Society had Alexander Hamilton’s dick under glass.

  16. red says:

    Tracey – I know! Lots of cool old paper to look at in those slides … even just old receipts or bills of sale … And of course, her lovely stationery.

  17. Betsy says:

    We took the kids to the National Archives last weekend (Christopher’s request) – it was so amazing to see acutal documents and actual signatures of history. I love looking at the concrete “stuff” too!

  18. red says:

    Bets – so neat! I love stuff. I don’t care if it’s a small dented baby spoon that Abigail Adams used to feed her children … Nothing is too banal for me. i want to touch that stuff, too – so it’s fortunate that it’s all usually behind glass. My fingers literally itched while looking at Hamilton’s desk and I had to walk away.

    I’ve been dying to get back down in your new neck of the woods- it’s been years. Now, of course, I have an excuse – I can see you!

    Miss you tons.

  19. Patrick says:


  20. Emily says:

    I’m so with you on the banal stuff – no such thing. I remember almost drooling all over the glass case I saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that had one of Paganini’s violin strings on display.

  21. red says:

    Patrick – I am dying!!! hahahahaha

  22. red says:

    Emily – they do become magic, don’t they? When you know what was done by the actual person with the object. Bill McCabe had to literally lead me away from the desk (which was roped off) because I was this close to stepping lightly over the rope and touching – just TOUCHING – the desk where Hamilton wrote the federalist papers and so much else. Bill was like, “Okay, Sheila, let’s go over here now … gently, gently …”

  23. Cullen says:

    This is so cool. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  24. Betsy says:

    Yes!!!! You are welcome any time! To add to my story, I was driving with Christopher today and we were talking about this being the first day of school. He said to me, “the girl on one side of me has very neat handwriting so I think she is smart – my handwriting is terribe, just like our founding fathers”.

  25. Steve G. says:

    Huh. My Grandpa had a shaving kit remarkably (if not exactly) like that. And still used it well into the ’00s.

  26. Mary Eman says:

    “Thank you for your champagne. It arrived. I drank it, and I was gayer.” Exactly what champagne is supposed to do……let’s all have some.

  27. Carrie says:

    I have that cookbook (Elena’s Mexican)!!! I cook what Marilyn Monroe cooked!!

    Ok, stoked.

  28. ricki says:

    How fascinating! There’s something touching about the…real-ness…of those things. I don’t think I ever contemplated Marilyn Monroe cooking, or owning a cookbook, before.

    I’m going to have to take some time and look at all the stuff on the Vanity Fair site.

  29. allison says:

    i’m pouring–POURING–over the slides on vanity of the miscellany left behind by marilyn monroe in her long-lost filing cabinets. i swear, the hair on the back of neck stands up at some of these images. how eerie, how fascinating, how provocative.

    i want to touch these items, smell them, feel their weight and texture. great stuff…i can’t wait to get this month’s issue of the magazine! thanks for sharing this.

  30. red says:

    Allison – i know, right?

    I love her small personalized bridge set, too.

  31. red says:

    ricki – I know! I want to try her chocolate rum pie.

  32. red says:

    Betsy – HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA I am dying at Christopher’s comment!!!

  33. Cara Ellison says:

    Oh heavens.

    Oh my god.

    I’m positively vibrating with excitement right now.

  34. red says:

    Cara – yay!!! It’s a treasure trove! Please – as you go thru the things – come back and share your thoughts – I’d love to hear the images that call out to you.

    I am calling upon a museum (say, the Whitney) to do an exhibit of all of these things.

  35. phil says:

    She wrote beautiful letters.

    I just knew it.


  36. Lisa says:

    Wow! The purse is to die for! Going thru that stuff actually makes me want to cry-what a shame she is gone…..

  37. Lorraine says:

    Sorry people – Vanity Fair was duped. The whole thing is a fraud perpetrated on them. Check out Our Marilyn Blog. Hope they sue.

  38. Lance says:

    I found this thread in March 2016. Sadly, the Vanity Fair site no longer contained the slides referred to in the thread. Are they available anywhere else for viewing?
    I also read the comment just above mine that said that Vanity Fair was duped and that everything shown (except documents) was fake. I’m sick of these hoaxes where fake items are presented as having been owned by MM. (The mid-1960’s Clairol hot rollers come immediately to mind!).

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